Friday, January 25, 2013

The End Game

As the afternoon wore on, I looked over to where our patients were quietly sitting and waiting.  A lady I had spoken to had been sitting there for hours. Our priority was to see as many children as we could and she never complained when one was placed in the dental chair ahead of her.  I never saw a look of disappointment, anger or frustration.  She sat there for hours.  For her, it was worth the waiting to get a chance to be seen by our dental team.  At the end, it was her turn and I remember her smile.

I couldn't be more proud of this team from Advance Family Dental.  They worked for hours in the hot sun and many would not take the time for a break.  I'm sure that they would have worked well into the night if they could.  They showed great compassion to all and really cared for their patients.  Even after a long week, they were happy and upbeat and reflected on how the operation could be improved and when they could return to Haiti.

We were only here for a week and I'm sure we could have worked for many months. The people here are in such a great need for dental care and many are extremely grateful for a chance to be seen. I know this trip was a challenge to the team, but they embraced it with enthusiasm which only grew as the week progressed.  They were the right team at the right time and I know there are a lot of people thanking God that this team came into their lives this week.

Day 4 Dental Team


We are a little slow at publishing because we were so tired after a full day of dentistry in the heat and sun.

We got our equipment semi-working.  Limping along with less than ideal but far better than most Haitian dentists use.  It is obvious that the usual dental treatment has been extraction and everyone is happy that we have repair options.

The pattern of dental disease is quite different from our patient group in Minnesota.  Lots of calculous (tarter) on young kids age 5.  We usually only see this at age 30 and above.  Decay on the chewing surfaces of teeth are the main problem and when caught early it is a simple fix and the tooth can be perfect for decades without much further care.

The improved diet in Grace Village appears to be making a big difference for tooth health.  Many serious decay area seem to have stopped and "healed" to some extent because the sugary meals they had been eating have been shifted to fruits and vegetables.  They all seem so vibrant too.

So many of the kids are interested in watching us do our work.   I'm sure we have some future dentists in the group.

We have seen the potential to train some individuals in simple dentistry so when we are gone, some abilities remain with the people.  Troy Livesay, resident in Haiti has been training with us and will take some of our equipment and be able to do some basic things.   We will see how that goes.  He is eager learner and has gotten some great experience.

All of our patients are so grateful for our care.  Some haven't had good experience with the dentist in the past, so it takes some coaxing to get them to cooperate.  Smiles after for all!

While exhausting, we drop at the end of the day grateful for the chance to serve.  For many of us, this kind of service is new.  We are talking about "when we come next time" so everyone is excited about continuing our service into the future.

We all fall in love with the Haitian people.  You cannot help but love all the fun smiles and personalities.

We are off for our final push.  We are committed to doing our best and "leaving it all on the court" because we know that they will have limited care in our absence.  Any time lost means we leave some needed care undone.

We have only 3 more children on the must see list but hundreds left that could have some trouble.  We cannot yet do it all but we do what we can and are grateful for the chance.

Dr. Z

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Day 3 in Haiti

Day 3- Healing Haiti

Well its day 3 now, we have experienced so much it is difficult to put it all into words. From the moment we got to Haiti it has been so much more eye opening then any of us anticipated. The Haitians live their lives unlike any other lifestyle we’ve seen thus far. They don’t have all the “necessities” that we think we need, and they survive just fine. They find things fun, interesting, and amusing that we completely take for granted. For example, today we delivered water to a village in City Soleil, one of the poorest places in Haiti. We brought along a jump rope for the children to play with, and before we knew it, they were fighting over who got to use and keep it. It’s these little things that they cherish, that we completely overlook.

Today, tomorrow and Friday we will be working in a place called Grace Village on various patients’ dental needs (orphans, staff members, and the elderly). We have gotten the opportunity to see first-hand how fortunate we are to have regular dental visits. Some of the patients we worked with have never seen a dentist at all, or can’t remember the last time it was. Majority of them were so willing to sit in our chair and get the chance to get their teeth looked at, it was humbling. Others were a little apprehensive, but once the translator let them know that we were there to help, not hurt, there defiance was turned around. Knowing you can help someone, who would probably never get the chance otherwise, is a miracle in itself.

This experience is incredible, and I feel so blessed to be a part of it.

Kalli Flaherty

A Single Tear

"I am only one, but I am one.  I cannot do everything, but I can do something.  And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do."  Edward Everett Hale

The little boy was first to be seen today.  He looked a little scared and his body tensed as he was brought to the examination chair.  He timidly smiled as our team talked with him to make him feel at ease.  Several people surrounded his chair, holding his hand and encouraging him to be brave.  I can't imagine what he must have felt being the only child there at the time surrounded by strangers with weird looking glasses and masks.  Yet he sat there and never complained.  All I saw was a single tear roll down his cheek that was quickly patted away by one of those around him.

Another boy stood ramrod straight with his arms crossed.  There was no way he was going to be persuaded to sit in that chair.  For 5 minutes we talked with him to try to convince him that we were there to help and feel better.  After quite a while, he finally relented and he was treated.  Later in the afternoon, I saw him return and sit in the examination chair for fun.  The transformation was astounding and heartwarming.

From seeing the kids with previously identified issues to treating the staff of Healing Haiti, the dental team from Advance Family Dental worked tirelessly and obviously loved what they were doing.  They worked with precision and constantly strove to perfect the mobile dental clinic they had set up in the courtyard of the boys dorm.  From the look on the faces of the kids and the staff they treated, I would say there efforts were greatly appreciated.

Haiti Day 2

Today we woke up and had a wonderful breakfast. Fresh fruit,  eggs, pancakes etc.. I guess I should back up a few steps and discuss our night last night after the blog. There's no hot water here at all, we are all becoming very used to cold showers. By cold showers I do not mean luke- warm, I mean COLD. After a long day it is energizing, exhilarating, and leaves you feeling just slightly frozen.  We are all sleeping in bunk beds. They are cozy. During the day the electricity of the guest house is completely off so they kick on the air conditioner at night time. Unfortunately the power goes out often so for a small phase of the night instead of hearing the humming of fans, we heard barking watch dogs and cock-a doodling- do roosters from all over. It was surreal.

After breakfast we got dressed up to go to the home of sick and dying babies/toddlers/children. We took a 10 minute bumpy ride just a few blocks away. We waited at the gate for some time along with a few mothers waiting to visit their sick children. After some more time we discovered the home was too busy and that we will have to come back at a later time..

From there we went back to the guest house, changed and headed up to Grace Village. It is at a much higher elevation than the guesthouse allowing us to overlook the ocean and surrounding land. The whole trip there was eye opening. The things we saw still blow my mind. Mothers carrying buckets that must way over 60 lbs on their heads,  skinny horses with wooden saddles, and thousands of children roaming the streets without parents. I will have pictures to follow.

We arrived at Grace Village which is a home for orphans. We  got a tour from Jessica. She showed us all the school children in class, swing sets, lunch halls etc.. Then we saw the children. Or should I say...the children saw us?!  It was only a matter of seconds before we had all been ridden of our  headbands, sunglasses, and cell phones. Children were literally leaping into our arms begging us to hold and carry them. They would say things like " You are beautiful! "  "What languages do you speak?", and "Are those lashes real? ". It was so funny because we didn't know what they were saying until we asked the interpreter. The interpreters would Laugh out loud and  then tell us what the children were asking. It was always a surprise what would come out next.

At grace Village the kids were dressed beautifully. Hair was braided and perfectly, girls were in dresses and boys were in dress shirts. Tomorrow we are going somewhere where the orphaned children will not be as dressed or not dressed at all. From what I hear they will be even more eager to see, touch, and be held by us.

When we were finished playing with the kids we thought it might be time to begin some dentistry. We set up 4 units and elderly workers began to line up. We saw a total of 11 patients in the few hours we were there. Tomorrow we plan on seeing more because we will have more time. It was a wonderful day and we will be sleeping well tonight.

I will continue to keep you all updated.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Our Work Has Begun

"Never worry about numbers.  Help one person at a time, and always start with the person nearest to you"  Mother Teresa

For a long time our elderly patiently waited to see a dental team who are selflessly donating their time and talents to bring dental care to people who desperately need it.  I watched a lady carry herself with pride as we examined her eleven teeth.  Five were determined to have decayed to the nerve, yet she bore her pain as I'm sure she always does- quiet, stoic and uncomplaining.  Another lady (103 years old) had to have a tooth extracted.  When it was finished and she was asked how she felt, she raised her hands and said "Thank you Jesus".  I'm sure that's not the response our team normally gets in the states.  It took a little longer to see each patient as most were in need of extensive cleaning and repair.  Yet I never heard a complaint from those who were waiting nor did I ever catch an angry glance.  All were grateful for the opportunity to be relieved of the pain that most have endured for what I'm sure felt like an eternity.Our team worked through most of the day with little rest, yet I think they would have continued to work for hours more.  In the fading daylight and with reluctance, they finally had to stop seeing patients so they could get our translators home for the evening.

Our list is long and I'm sure we will be unable to see everyone, yet we will try. Tomorrow we will try to exam most of the children Healing Haiti has.  I wonder if they will be as calm and accepting as the elders we saw today?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Time is Now

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.  Ralph Waldo Emerson

We are finally packed and ready to go.  Will everything get to Port au Prince?  Will we be overwhelmed?  Have we done everything we could to prepare for our next week?  A lot of questions and a lot of uncertainty,  yet there is no place we would rather be and no time like the present to help in any way we can.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

" I Wondered Why Somebody Didn't Do Something. Then I Realized, I Am Somebody."

" I am only one, but I am one.  I cannot do everything, but I can do something.  And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do." Edward Everett Hale
"I expect to pass through life but once.  If therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again."  William Penn
" Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier." Mother Teresa

How can we help?  How can we best make a difference in their lives?  There must be something more we can do?  Something-anything!

The issues in Haiti are so many that we're often overwhelmed.  Everywhere we look, there's a scale of need so massive that it appears insurmountable.  Nothing happens quickly.  In many cases, change is so slow as to appear to be nonexistent. Yet we must try--

In a few short weeks, a dental team led by Dr. Zollinger will take time off from their busy schedules to volunteer their time to bring dental care to many Haitians who have never had any.  They are bringing supplies, knowledge and above all skills that will ease the burden and suffering that many have had due to decayed or diseased teeth.  Not only will their everyday pain be removed, but future discomfort as well through preventative measures.We have a chance to ease some real suffering.  We have a chance to be able to walk away knowing that everything possible was done to help them.

As with all teams, there will be many tears and soul searching, but my prayer is that we will come away  not feeling frustrated because we couldn't do more, but coming away remembering the smiles and gratitude expressed on the faces on those whose lives have just been measurably improved.  What better memory can there be?